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A leafy paradise is to be created for one of Wales’s rarest animals as foresters set about restoring an ancient woodland to its former glory.
Forestry Commission Wales is planning to fell conifers at Coed Maes Mawr near Aberllefenni in Powys and replant the area with broadleaves to create the perfect home for the endangered dormouse.
The dormouse is now so rare that it is protected by European law and FC Wales had to apply for a licence from the Welsh Assembly Government to carry out the sensitive work.
The restoration project will have further benefits by linking two adjacent old oakwoods designated as sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) where some of Wales's rarest lichens such as lungworts can be found.
The opportunity to transform the Assembly Government-owned woodland, which is a Plantation on Ancient Woodland Site (PAWS), was spotted by FC Wales Conservation and Heritage Manager Nick Young.
“Part of my job is to look for ways to manage and improve our forests for the plants and animals that live in them, and the people that come to visit them," he said.
“The conifers were approaching felling age and, although the clearfelling will have a dramatic impact on the way the site looks in the short term, we will be replanting the whole area with native broadleaves over the coming winter.
"In a few short years it will green up and be used by a whole host of different wildlife: birds, insects and, hopefully, more dormice.”
Dormice are a European Protected Species so work on the woodland hedgerows where they live will take place in September and October when they are actively feeding to fatten up for the winter hibernation and are able to move out of the way of any disturbance.
In addition, the contractors will work in a way that will not damage any remaining hedgerows on the 16 hectare site where the dormice are most likely to be.
As well as creating more habitat for the dormice and linking the SSSI woodlands, restoring the ancient woodland will improve the landscape in the longer term for the people who come to walk the Foel Friog footpath through the forest.
Nick said, “Coed Maes Mawr provides an exciting chance to make a real difference. Visitors will be able to watch the woodland develop and change as the trees grow taller and the area becomes richer in wildlife with each passing year.”
The Countryside Council for Wales said it was grateful to FC Wales for its support in managing the site.
“As well as being an important area of oak woodland which supports dormice and some of Wales's rarest lichens, it's also a great place for people to enjoy a tranquil walk through the Dyfi forest,” said Dr Carol Fielding, CCW team leader in Montgomeryshire.
“The work is a vital contribution to CCW's and the Welsh Assembly Government's target to get all SSSIs in Wales into favourable management.”
Picture caption: hazel hedge surrounded by conifers in Coed Maes Mawr
NOTES TO EDITORS
The two areas of SSSI are at Coed Esgairneiriau and Cheunant Caecenau, which are both parts of the Coed Maes Mawr woodland.
A licence from the Welsh Assembly Government is required to carry out any work that might harm European Protected Species and their nesting places.
About 14% of Wales is covered by woodlands. Of this, 38% (126,000 hectares/311,000 acres) is owned by the Welsh Assembly Government.
Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Assembly Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf.
For more information on work at Coed Maes Mawr, contact Nick Young on 01341 592018, mobile 07899 734058.
More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on www.forestry.gov.uk/wales
Media enquiries to Forestry Commission Wales Information Officer Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922.